NASA Aircraft Flies Over LCF, Collecting Air Pollution Data

A DC-8 that recently swooped over the Los Angeles Basin carried scientists who collected air samples used to assess air pollution and develop air quality standards.
Photo courtesy of NASA
A DC-8 that recently swooped over the Los Angeles Basin carried scientists who collected air samples used to assess air pollution and develop air quality standards.

A NASA DC-8 recently flew low over La Cañada Flintridge and the rest of the Los Angeles basin to collect air samples to assess how air pollution is affected by changes in emissions, a process that helps in the ongoing development of national ambient air quality standards.
A team of scientists on the aircraft flew at altitudes of 1,500-3,500 feet above various local areas and the San Joaquin Valley on Sept. 5. The group had flown from Salina, Kansas, to the jet’s base of operations at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Building 703 in Palmdale.
A team from UC Irvine will analyze the air samples for organic compounds that are pollutants contributing to ozone and particulate matter formation, said Kate Squires, senior public affairs specialist in Earth and space science for the Armstrong center. The air quality data collection is part of a partnership agreement with the California Air Resources Board, Squires said.
“They’re going to use the data to evaluate the performance of their air quality models and use it to guide air pollution control strategies in the future,” Squires said.
Jeremy Avise, an air resources supervisor with CARB, said his organization uses models to assess how air pollution responds to changes in emissions, and the information is used to develop an emissions target for the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
“Emissions change over time,” Avise said, adding that the primary focus of the data is ozone, smog and particulate matter 2.5, or particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter.
Though California has stringent emission controls, the Los Angeles basin and San Joaquin Valley are among the most polluted regions in the country because of topography, sheer numbers of people and the number of people traveling in vehicles, CARB officials said.
“They’re two of the top,” Avise said. “They’re highly polluted regions and are of interest to CARB and the research community in general.”
LCF 4 Healthy Air’s Elizabeth Krider said she enjoys working with CARB and was happy to hear about the study. LCF 4 Healthy Air is a group that includes local residents and strives to reduce safety and health hazards to the community affected by the Devil’s Gate Dam sediment removal project.
“CARB staff are committed to minimizing pollution threats to public health no matter what the source — mobile vehicles, stationary equipment, fires.” Krider said.
Avise called the flyover a success because needed measurements were made.
“We don’t know what we’re going to get out of them until we sit down and look at the data,” Avise said. “I would say regardless of what we get from the data, it’s a success just having it.” While the data will be analyzed as soon as it becomes available, the process will likely take a year or so, Avise said.

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